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Aaron Dobson, the Rorschach Test WR Prospect


I feel like I would use the term Rorschach Test more often if I didn’t have to google it every time to be sure I’m spelling it right. Maybe that’s just me?

In any case, Aaron Dobson is the wide receiver prospect that will allow you to see whatever it is you want to see when you look at him. At 210 pounds and a 40 yard dash of around 4.4 second (sources differ on this time, but usually have it around there) Dobson is big enough and fast enough to make you think that he could be a very good receiver in the NFL. But the problem is that Dobson probably just turned in his worst season as a college player. He posted career lows in both yardage market share and touchdown market share. The table below is on a per game basis, so it doesn’t penalize Dobson for missing games:

Aaron Dobson-Marshall 2009 75 210 4.37 35 2.09 5 0.29 0.57 72.40 0.80 24.13
Aaron Dobson-Marshall 2011 75 210 4.37 35 2.09 12 0.26 0.60 55.33 1.00 13.83
Aaron Dobson-Marshall 2010 75 210 4.37 35 2.09 10 0.30 0.22 68.30 0.40 16.26
Aaron Dobson-Marshall 2012 75 210 4.37 35 2.09 9 0.20 0.11 75.00 0.33 12.05

Dobson’s Physical Score, which goes into my WR model, is very good. However, he would still be behind Da’Rick Rogers and Ryan Swope on that measure.

In a situation like this where you have indicators going in opposite directions (Dobson’s physical score points up, while his production points down) you might be inclined to just give him the “catching passes from Tom Brady” benefit of the doubt. But the problem with that is that the Pats have actually done this before… and when I say “this” I mean they’ve drafted a physical specimen on the light side of the production spectrum… which they did when they drafted Chad Jackson with the 36th overall pick in the 2006 draft. Maybe Jackson and Dobson aren’t the same receiver, but my point is that Tom Brady is a very good QB but that hasn’t made every receiver he’s ever played with an automatic stud.

Some algorithmic projection systems use a prospect’s peak season to forecast his pro career. I’ve done that and it has a lower r-squared than using a player’s last season. Using the last season also makes sense from the standpoint that it’s the very most recent information we have about a prospect. Maybe there’s a reason their production fell off, like they saw more attention from defenses.  Or maybe they stopped working as hard for some reason. Who knows?

Here’s where I come down on Dobson: I see that there’s upside that shows up in the form of his physical measurables and some of the Market Share Touchdown numbers he’s posted. I also know that having Tom Brady throw passes to you can help quite a bit.  I will have to adjust my WR rankings to get Dobson a helluva a lot higher than I had him before. But I’m not sure if Dobson will ever be available to me in a place where I’m the highest on him. He seems like one of those prospects that you look at and know that they might be good, but also that someone will always draft them before you do.

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